From Here to There
One such endeavor goes by the name, "There." It's an odd choice for a name, and I'd make a witty remark about it if I didn't work for a service called "About." Another odd thing about There Inc. is that they refuse to call it a game, and hesitate to describe it as a 3D chat room. Instead they prefer to refer to it as a virtual world, a "Metaverse" in which "consumers communicate, interact, and have fun online."
Yeah, right. "A MMORPG for girls," I thought as I signed up for the beta.
May 20 2003
Nearly three weeks into There I have to admit that it's not quite what I expected. Although the 3D engine it uses is amazing, and it does have some solid game elements, there is little argument that it's more of a chat room than anything. Nevertheless, gamers shouldn't dismiss it too quickly, because it's not like any chat room we've seen before, and it could be exactly what some gamers are after.
Okay, every massively multiplayer game has chat. What makes There different is that, unlike most games, chat comes first and the rest comes after. One couldn't ask for much more in terms of chat features. Along with the floating bubbles overhead, there are all kinds of chat modes, instant messaging, full voice chat support, and, of course, your avatar can express a remarkable variety of preset emotions - high tech versions of the old sideways smilie.
The Cutest World Yet
Graphically, it's decidedly cute and cartoonish. As well as trying to keep hardware demands down, it's a good fit for their target audience, which is not so much computer gamers, a predominantly male group, but women who like to socialize online. CEO Tom Melcher has told reporters that "Men will go where the women are, but the reverse isn't true." On the other hand, men may be glad to have the women out of the way so they can get back to playing EverQuest.
Although the terrain is quite impressive, it really doesn't compare visually with many recently released games such as Asheron's Call 2 or Morrowind. Still, the geography in There is on a truly incredible scale. I don't know of many games where, if you set off for some distant mountain top you see on the horizon, you can actually get there, and without loading a dozen different zones to boot.
Another unique thing about There is an unprecedented amount of integration between the virtual world and the Web site. Shopping, auctions, events, and a host of other things are handled by a mini-browser which brings up There's Web site. By logging into the Web site, transactions can be made without even loading the game client. Clearly, the developers are trying to create a robust virtual economy, and encourage users to trade and sell game items.
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